Change is a word that is always on politicians’ lips. Change is something that most if not all politicians promise and it is so not just because politicians enjoy hearing themselves speak or are stuck in a loop, it is because most times a serious change is visibly needed for that political system.
Politicians in Jamaica are not immune from this act and we have had our fair share of politicians who have claimed to be ‘agents of change’ or are here to bring in ‘a new style of politics’. We have had numerous politicians who have promised the moon and countless have insisted that they are here to change the system and yet, for some reason, we seem to be stuck even further in the mire.
While it is nice to hear a politician state boldly that he/she is going to shake up the system, in Jamaica it has always been a case of ]beware of politicians bearing change’, as the change in most instances almost always results in expensive stagnation or even retardation and regression.
We live in a land where every election cycle sees political parties criss-crossing the island that they and they alone have ruled for 66 years insisting that they will change the damaging policies that they have wrought.
If we use the last three administrations we see where much talk of change was bandied about and yet, in the end, the nation and the people, for the most part, are worse off than a decade ago. Take for example the previous PNP Government and the issue of ganja. Here we had a party calling for a change, stating that the laws then were totally out of step with what was (is) the reality in Jamaica. However, the ‘change’ that they implemented was to simply decriminalise. In other words, the big change was to codify what the police were already doing and end it there. No ganja industry was/has been planned; the cost of licences such as R&D and other legitimate purposes are prohibitively expensive and as such the main players in the ganja industry remain the drug lord and his cultivator.
This is a party that swept to power when we were on our knees economically and the citizens were asked to tighten their belts. The PNP, while in office, burnt through money for ‘official’ things like an enlarged travelling entourage and new top-of-the-line cars. There may have been a change in how the economy was run (they did somewhat right the ship), but there was no change in their attitude towards the people bearing austere measures as they flaunted luxuries in their faces.
The previous JLP administration (2007-2011) was ushered in on the back of change, it was (even with its slim majority) touted as the panacea to the PNP poison. Change varying from political reform, electoral reform, economic reform and a systematic separation of politics and crime were peddled to the people and they bought it.
In the end, the changes that actually took place were that of the state violently opening up the garrison of Tivoli, something most thought they would never see (especially by a JLP administration). And even the gains from that tragic change have been flushed away by following administrations as the gangsters now look to consolidate themselves in West Kingston and the all-important port.
On the economic front, we were promised a change from the stagflation that marred the PNP era, a change from living on borrowed money and a change in how we ran our finances. The change we got was, in fact, being hard hit by the financial crisis despite us having due time to prepare and the workers continuing to bear the brunt of it.
This administration has been no different in promising the moon to get in, and remain in office. The promises of this administration have been many and all across the board, in most instances borrowing from past administrations and in all cases failing to make a change for the better. The promise of a better economic future (near term) has been shown to be a lie. It is more of the same and has meant stagnation for the workers.
Promises of a change in leadership style have only seen parties acting like it was the bad 90s in reverse. Now it’s the PNP who repulse and turn off people by their actions and words, leaving the JLP to act like the sole cock amongst hens. We see a government that promised to do right by the workers now offering what can only be called a joke as it relates to a pay increase. We have a government that, after promising that they would ‘change’, dish out contracts pre-election like it’s nobody’s business.
These are but a few examples of Jamaican political parties promising change or to be agents of change and we all know that there are countless more examples. The question then becomes, if we the voters and citizens want to change politics and how it works and we know that most politicians who promise change really only mean a change of party in office, what do you do? What action can the voter and the average citizen take when he/she knows that continuing down the same path will lead to ruin, and yet those who not only preach change but are entrusted to be ‘agents of change’, then go and do the same thing or worse?
Finding the answer to this conundrum is simple. The implementation, however, is hard. One must elect politicians who have a record of positive change, individuals who have no linkages to the corrupt system that is Jamaican politics (there are quite a few individuals who fit the bill such as our former Contractor General). Elect persons who will and have done the hard lifting in our society, individuals from NGOs and various charities whom we all know would ensure that a positive change takes place in the land.
We all know that is the answer. The implementation, however, will show if we really want a change. The action means writing, calling and speaking to individuals who fit the bill and pester them into entering the political arena, as many don’t want to because it entails the metaphorical selling of one’s soul. Action means joining or forming a party so that those individuals can get on a ticket; it also means voting so that the individual can win.
To see a change we need to hold our politicians accountable and vote them out when they mess up or deviate from the script the people have given them. We must ensure that they are answerable to the people in all their dealings.
People who want political change in this nation are a dime a dozen. Everyone knows that things cannot continue as they are. Everyone is grasping or looking for, or hoping for some positive change on the horizon and the politicians know this. They have had 60-plus years to make a change in the nation and if anything we have gone backwards.
This current batch of politicians in both parties and youth wings are not agents of positive change. They are more of the same. That is so because the system they have designed makes them powerful and influential, and changing it, even in the slightest, would be a major hindrance to that. If change is to come, it will come outside of the two parties. If a change is to come, then the people of this nation will have to wise up and wise up quickly. We must learn fast that politicians bearing change are like Greeks bearing gifts, always to be viewed with suspicion and scepticism.